Adventures in Puglia

My past month has gone like this: I finished my first year of grad school, visited family in Alabama, did a few photo jobs in Florida, and flew back to Florence a little over a week ago. Oh, and I’ll be back in the US in July for more photo shoots and an exhibition! If you’re around, you should either book me to take your photos or come to my opening at Lowe Mill in Huntsville. Or, you know, you could do both.

Since the age of 16, I’ve worked two jobs every summer. This year, though… well, I don’t have a plan. This is the only summer in which I will have a European visa (at least for the near future), so I've known that I've wanted to stay in Italy for the majority of my break. I thought I would find an internship or a job in Florence, but after getting so singularly focused on my work at school, I let time get away from me and summer rolled around sooner than I anticipated. So, my plan is to use part of the savings that I have from those aforementioned jobs and use it to travel. That being said, if you want to hire me for photos in Florence as well, I certainly wouldn't say no…

At any rate, I’ve been in Puglia (a region in the South of Italy) this week, and it is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Here are a few things that have happened thus far:

I’ve been surprised by the amount of strangers that have talked to me on the street. There is an exuberance to this region that’s different from the atmosphere in Florence; I’m not sure how to explain it. Maybe part of it is the culture, and maybe Southern Italians just haven’t tired of tourists yet. Still, much like in Florence, the towns feel the most alive right before dusk. All of the young people in Bari sit at the harbor and drink and talk, and even though Polignano a Mare is a tiny little town, it seems as if every single local heads to the main piazza at dusk. There’s not a main street for the traditional “passeggiata” (evening walk) as far as I can tell, so instead I saw 5 separate groups of elderly men walking the length of the piazza over and over again, their steps often in perfect sync.

And then there is the food. Fish is one of my favorite things to eat, so I think Puglia may be my preferred region for food in Italy. I’ve eaten enough pesce crude for the next decade, and yesterday I took myself on a date to a nice restaurant to commemorate my last night in Polignano. Dining alone can be as weird or as wonderful as you make it; for me, it’s become something that I look forward to. Just as meals with friends are a time to connect with others, dining solo is the perfect time to reflect and brainstorm and just be calm. Learning how, exactly, one becomes calm my project for the summer, because it's not an inherent quality. That being said, I think that a year in Italy has loosened me up a bit.

Of course I’ve been swimming; ever since I was a little kid, the sea has been my happy place. I feel the most calm and liberated when I’m floating in an ocean, preferably as far away from other humans as possible. I know that's not exactly a safe thing to do... if it weren’t the 21st century, I’m certain natural selection would have taken care of me a long time ago. Severe food allergies, a penchant for traveling alone, and the desire to submerge oneself in large bodies of water is not a winning combination for long-term survival. Mom, if you’re reading this, I promise I’m being safe!

Well, mostly safe. I did cut my hand on a rock while swimming yesterday. It wasn’t horrible, but it did bleed badly enough that, by the time I found first aid, it was hard to distinguish if I was injured or had just committed a murder. As a result, the well-meaning attendant at the ice cream stand bandaged my hand until I resembled a bikini-clad mummy. All I needed was a band-aid… I’m not that fragile.

Really, Puglia is lovely. Today I am on a train from Polignano a Mare to Lecce, and I’m not sure how many photos will happen in Lecce due to this awful rain. The weather during the rest of my trip, however, has been gorgeous. I flew into Bari and have visited the little seaside towns of Trani, Polignano a Mare, and Monopoli. Next on my list is Otranto and finally Brindisi to catch a flight home. For now, I leave you with a little slice of life in Puglia as I've observed it.